Two years after filing a civil rights lawsuit against Harmon County Sheriff Joe Johnson in Oklahoma City federal court, a jury has awarded the plaintiff, Tiffany Ann Glover, $6.5 million. Glover, a former Hollis resident, filed the suit against Johnson, Jayson Vest, Hollis Police Chief David Leathers and the city of Hollis for failing to protect her against violent sexual assault while she was being held in jail on questionable charges that were later dismissed. Glover, who claimed in her suit she had repeatedly told Johnson and other staff members that she was being targeted for sexual abuse by Hollis’ then-Assistant Police Chief Jayson Vest, was removed from her cell before being raped and sodomized by Vest inside the Police Chief’s office. Johnson and his attorney’s denied he was complicit in the matter, with Johnson claiming he never heard Glover’s alleged complaints and his attorney’s stating in a court document that “No actions or inactions of Sheriff Johnson resulted in Vest raping (Glover), and no policies or procedures over which he had control led to her being raped.” The jury disagreed, though they did not award the $20 million initially sought in the suit. John Gladd, one of the lawyers who represented Glover, said of the outcome, “The jury isn’t allowed to send a message but I think they did. This sheriff knew he had a predator in the jail and he allowed free access, gave him the keys.” He also stated it would, unfortunately, most likely be taxpayers who will shoulder the burden of paying the settlement amount because Johnson was sued as an appointed Sheriff and not as a private citizen.
According to the lawsuit, Vest first began sexually pursuing Glover in 2012 after he responded to a domestic violence call in which Glover was the victim. Two months after the first encounter, Vest parked his police car behind Glover’s vehicle as she was pulling up to her grandmother’s house to ask her out on a date. When she declined his offer, Vest allegedly became upset and proceeded to arrest her for driving under the influence and possession of paraphernalia; Glover spent over a month in jail as a result of her arrest. The suit also alleged Glover had alerted Johnson to the fact she felt violated by Vest prior to being arrested to no avail, and the harassment continued to worsen while she was behind bars in Harmon County jail. The jail employs officials from both Harmon County and the city of Hollis, giving Vest total access to his victim. In June of 2013, Vest pleaded no contest to “second-degree rape and forcible sodomy” and is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence while Glover, now 32, has since relocated to Missouri.
The Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma stated Harmon County has a maximum $2 million coverage for lawsuits such as these, with attorney’s fees included in the amount. County officials have indicated the verdict will be appealed, though no further comments on the case are available at this time. As for Johnson, he is up for re-election as County Sheriff this year; a position he has held for the past 20 years, though after news of this verdict, he likely faces an uphill climb. At least let’s hope he does.